Yom Kippur - KOL NIDREI SERMON 5764 October 5, 2003 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Did you ever hear the Yiddish term, a "Pintalah yid"? This just means that a Jew is holding on to his connection to Judaism despite all circumstances and obstacles. The prayer that we are about to recite, Kol Nidrei, was first practiced publicly by the Jews called Marranos, in 1492, in Spain. They prayed to be connected to G-d, regardless of the situations they were enduring. At that time, it was forbidden for Jews to pray and Jews could not practice Judaism publicly. Therefore, the Marranos utilized the Kol Nidrei proclamation to release themselves from any unwanted commitment and vows.
In this year, there is another form of Kol Nidrei, which is life- sustaining for the Jews in Iraq. Here I am holding an article from an Israeli newspaper about Mohamed Asharah, who was a very high officer in Saddam Hussein’s regime. In reality he was a hidden Jew. Mohamed whose real name was Moshe led the American forces to his basement, where he had been hiding a treasure. His basement contained 16 Torah scrolls that he had been hiding for almost 30 years. Imagine the special feeling of finding these treasured Torahs. Each torah is worth approximately $ 30,000. Think about it, $30,000 times 16. Aside from the financial asset it is of enormous sentimental value and a miraculous discovery. Mohammad whose real identity was Moshe the Jew lived secretly as a Jew in Iraq He donated his Sephardic Torahs to synagogues in Israel that needed Torahs. This is a very brave and a courageous act. This is another form of someone who is forced to live differently than his conscience would allow him. A special delegation from Israel came and took the Torahs to Israel.
The words of Kol Nidrei are a proclamation by which we free ourselves from unintentional commitments. By reciting these words we too join the long line of Jewish people throughout history that dedicated themselves to perpetuate our tradition and culture from one generation to the next.
The first five letters of the English word Atonement comprise the phrase "at one" which symbolizes unity. Here tonight we are truly "at one". Your presence here tonight proves that we are one extended family and that we have continuation.
We as a Jewish people should feel proud of ourselves because we are important to the world. I read an article that quoted a statistic that stated that we are almost 1/3 of 1% of the population of the world, yet we have so many scholars, scientists and leaders in every field of endeavor all over the world. This is a true blessing and miracle.
And this is the meaning of the Yiddish expression, a Pintalah yid, meaning in English the tiny eternal flame that ‘burns’ in the heart and soul of every Jew. This flame is always lit no matter what. This is how each Jew can keep our traditions deep in his or her heart regardless of the external circumstances.
As each of us thinks about our own families, we also think about our synagogue family. We know that we at Kneseth Israel community should be very proud that we are 97 years old and continue to pass on the traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We can proudly say that in each of us a Pintalah yid is alive and well and spreading the light of Torah and good deeds.
How special it is that we can proudly show that we have strong family connection to our shul. Among our congregation, we have here tonight a family who has been with us for 6 generations. This is living proof of l’dor v’dor. And it is one of our goals for the future that we continue to be strong, vibrant and successful for many years to come.
My sincere wish is the famous prayer from Isaiah, the prophet of hope that we recite many times. "May the time soon come when nation will not lift up sword against nation neither shell people learn war anymore." Gmar chatimah Tovah.